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Several veteran Cardinals skipped out on postgame interviews with the media Thursday night, and I just...I don't think it's that big of a deal.
Larry Walker was a good St. Louis Cardinal in his time with the team ... or was he?
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus isn't much of a hitter. But he's still a tremendous player overall, and in Thursday night's Game 2 of the World Series, everybody got to see why.
If you ask Josh Hamilton, he's fine and his injury is just part of the rigors of a lengthy season. It is, after all, the World Series, and a silly groin injury is unlikely to keep him off the field. And on Thursday Hamilton drove in a run, helping the Rangers come back to down the St. Louis Cardinals and even the World Series at one game apiece.
When asked about his clearly hurting groin after the game, Hamilton bristled while brushing the question aside.
"It is what it is. I'm tired of talking about it. I'm going to hurt until the season is over. You know, so it's a non-issue as far as talking about it. So stop asking me, please."
Manager Ron Washington echoed Hamilton's sentiments, as well. The Rangers manager said as long as Hamilton felt he was ready to go, he'd be out there with the rest of the team. And from the sound of it, Hamilton will have to be pried off the field kicking and screaming.
Shifting to a happier topic that didn't elicit such a cold response, Hamilton praised the Rangers for battling back on Thursday while avoiding an 0-2 hole heading back to Texas.
"Up and down our lineup our guys want to win ballgames, and it doesn't matter if we're down five runs or we're up five runs. We have the attitude of, you know what, until the last pitch is thrown, last out is made, we're going to keep fighting. You know, you can't really say why that is other than the character of the guys on our team."
Hamilton played a role in the rally, injured groin and all. His sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth knotted the score at one, setting up a go-ahead sac fly by Michael Young. But at the rate this series is going, Hamilton may have to survive through five more close games to close out the season.
The Rangers slugger will get some relief in the form of an off-day on Friday as the Rangers and Cardinals travel to Texas ahead of Game 3. The two teams will be back on the field on Saturday for Game 3 of the World Series in Arlington.
"I didn't do my job," St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte said after the game, taking the blame for the Texas Rangers' 2-1 comeback win in Game 2 of the 2011 World Series. Once again, the Cardinals and Rangers played in a tight game, but this time around the St. Louis bullpen was less than perfect as it struggled to close out the game.
"It stinks. It's one of those things," Motte said. "I went out there and made a good pitch to Kinsler, and he did a good piece of hitting and got enough on it to get it out of the reach of Furcal. The next one, I threw another cutter, and it just wasn't a good pitch. It moved, came back, just stayed middle and spun up there."
Motte found himself back on the bench with runners on second and third and nobody out in the top of the ninth. Manager Tony La Russa made the decision to go with Arthur Rhodes after Motte struggled right out of the gate, and it came back to bite the Cardinals.
The Cardinals and Rangers are off on Friday as the series moves to Texas for Game 3.
The Texas Rangers almost left St. Louis down 2-0 in the World Series, but they got to the formerly impervious Cardinals bullpen, stealing Game 2 and tying the series at 1-1.
The Rangers entered the top of the ninth trailing the Cardinals 1-0. They had all of two hits to their name, and they were about to face Jason Motte, who had retired 27 of the 28 batters he'd seen in the postseason. It was pretty easy - wrong, but easy - to go ahead and take the outcome for granted.
Well, the Rangers showed you! It took Ian Kinsler five pitches to increase the team's hit output by 50 percent, as he dropped a blooper into no-man's land in shallow left-center. Soon after that, Kinsler took off for second, and even though Yadier Molina is a fantastic defensive catcher who made a fantastic, perfect throw, Kinsler's jump was too good, and he was just barely safe.
So the Rangers had a runner in scoring position with nobody out. That's when Elvis Andrus drilled a single the other way. He hit the ball too hard to score Kinsler, and there were runners on the corners, but a wild throw by Jon Jay and a poor cutoff attempt by Albert Pujols allowed Andrus to advance to second. Spoiler: this was important.
Up came the ailing Josh Hamilton, and because Jason Motte isn't the Cardinals' official "closer", Tony La Russa had no problem replacing him with the left-handed Arthur Rhodes. It seemed like a good idea, but Rhodes hung a first-pitch slider that Hamilton hit deep enough for a game-tying sac fly. Andrus advanced to third.
Out came La Russa again, to replace Rhodes with the right-handed Lance Lynn. Lynn fell behind Michael Young 3-0 before fighting back, but on the sixth pitch, Lynn put a curve within Young's reach, and Young hit it to straightaway center - again deep enough for a sac fly, this one putting the Rangers in the lead.
So everything's flipped. Now it's 2-1 Texas going into the bottom of the ninth, and Neftali Feliz is on to close it out. Everything happened too quickly for me to be profound or insightful.
As Grant wrote earlier today, Motte's not perfect. Not at all. He's faced 25 hitters in this postseason, and one of them actually got on base.
The other 24, not so much.
Of course, at some point he will be even more imperfect. Maybe even tonight, in the ninth inning of a World Series Game 2 that's still 1-0 Cardinals after eight full innings.
It was very nearly 2-0, as Albert Pujols drove one of Mike Adams' patented sliders -- along with Nelson Cruz -- all the way to the chain-link fence in deepest right field. But Cruz made the catch, Adams exhaled, and eventually Adams retired Daniel Descalso to escape a jam and keep the contest as tight as a contest can possibly be.
So now it's up to Motte in the ninth, when he'll face the top of the Rangers' lineup: Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and -- in a moment that promises nail-biting in the Central Time Zone -- Josh Hamilton, who's not 100 percent but was reportedly popping big flies with some ease during batting practice.
Now the Rangers need a real one of those.
After playing six and a half innings - or about twenty minutes - of scoreless baseball, the Cardinals finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh, when Allen Craig, again, came up with a pinch-hit RBI single, again, off Alexi Ogando, again. That put St. Louis in front 1-0, and the Rangers had but six outs with which to play.
Make that three outs with which to play. Because - and this will amaze you - their hitters couldn't do anything against the Cardinal bullpen in the top of the eighth.
Fernando Salas took over for Jaime Garcia, and he struck out Mike Napoli on five pitches to lead off. Some mutual managerial tweaking then led to Marc Rzepczynski facing Yorvit Torrealba, and Torrealba struck out on three pitches. The Rangers' last hope in the frame was a pinch-hitting Esteban German, but German bounced the first pitch to Albert Pujols at first base, who recorded the easy out.
So we're that much closer to a 1-0 final. Something tells me the games in Texas will be a little bit different, but the Cardinals couldn't really ask to be in a better spot right now.
It's like the famous quote: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to holy shit Allen Craig."
Through 6½ innings, Colby Lewis had thrown 86 pitches, 56 of which went for strikes. Jaime Garcia had thrown 87 pitches, 56 of which went for strikes. Garcia was going to have a better box-score line no matter what happened in the bottom of the seventh. Well, unless Lewis retired the side with one pitch in the seventh inning, which you might think is impossible if you didn't watch a Mariners' game this year. But the strike-percentage parity was still pretty uncanny.
Lewis couldn't make it through the bottom of the seventh, though, as he gave up singles to David Freese and Nick Punto to put runners on the corners with two outs. Manager Ron Washington removed Lewis for Alexi Ogando, and Tony La Russa countered by sending up Allen Craig to pinch-hit for Garcia.
This was good for Texas because Garcia was making the Rangers look silly.
This was bad for Texas because the same Ogando/Craig match-up was the difference in Game 1.
Craig took a 96-m.p.h. fastball to right field for what could be the decisive run in the game. Again.
Tough, tough pitch. Craig took it the other way. Cardinals up 1-0.
How well did Jaime García pitch in Game 2?
He pitched seven shutout innings Thursday night. García started 32 games during the regular season, and gave up zero runs only twice. Granted, those were both nine-inning shutouts - against the Padres in early April, Brewers in early May. But García lasted exactly seven innings in five starts during the season, and his Game 3 start marks his low in hits allowed (3) and his high in strikeouts (7). And he gave up at least one run in each of those five starts.
Does any of this prove that everyone's wrong about García? That he doesn't wilt under pressure?
Of course not. I never bought into any of that crap, but one excellent performance doesn't prove anything.
Well, except that baseball is highly unpredictable. It was reasonable to think García would pitch well, even against a good team in a big spot. But if you predicted he would pitch one of his best games all year, you're either a genius (like Tony La Russa!) or a really good guesser.
And I'm betting on the latter.
After a series of fantastic defensive plays, everything sort of settled down in the sixth, with both Jaime García and Colby Lewis adding to their streaks of goose eggs in relatively routine fashion.
It was just the third strikeout for Lewis, but he's now thrown 86 pitches in six innings. Meanwhile, García's got six strikeouts but has thrown only 75 pitches. Tony La Russa must be conflicted ... You know he wants to call the bullpen, but on the other hand you can't really yank a starter who's pitched brilliantly and isn't anywhere near 100 pitches, right?
Maybe if the Cardinals get a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, because La Russa can't let García bat for himself with runners on base. Not in this game.
Several commenters at the esteemed Lone Star Ball like to refer to the style of play in the National League as "clownball". Specifically, they're a little disgruntled that pitchers have to hit in the NL, which is something that can squash a perfectly good rally.
When Colby Lewis gave up a two-out single to Nick Punto, though, Rangers partisans were probably a little relieved that it was Jaime Garcia who was coming up to bat, regardless of their feelings about the DH. With Garcia coming up, Lewis was sure to get out of the inning.
Or not. That put two runners on for Rafael Furcal, who hit a ball right up the middle that should have been a single. Should have been, but most certainly wasn't.
Oh, my. It was the second double play in a many innings, but this was even more spectacular than the last. And Colby Lewis got out of it, even though if I wrote the rules, allowing a single to Nick Punto and a walk to the opposing pitcher would automatically cost a team six runs.
Hey, maybe the Cardinals looked at the scouting reports and figured out how to pitch to Nelson Cruz: Do not throw him fastballs in the strike zone. Particularly when he'll looking for fastballs in the strike zone.
Cruz led off the fifth inning of this scoreless affair against Jaime García.
First pitch: Curveball, high.
Second pitch: Curveball, swinging strike.
Third pitch: Change-up, outside.
Fourth pitch: Change-up, outside.
Would García give in, 3-and-1?
Fifth pitch: Perfect change-up low and away, called Strike 2.
Full-count fastball? Hardly. Cruz got a curve, and gave up his bat:
Now that is how you pitch to Nelson Cruz.
Mike Napoli's a good hitter, too. Maybe better than Nelson Cruz, even. And Napoli shot a liner into right field, but right at Lance Berkman. After which García struck out Craig Gentry to end the inning. Still scoreless into the bottom of the fifth.
In the top of the fourth inning, Ian Kinsler got hit by a foul ball off the bat of Adrian Beltre while he was leading off third base. Then, with one out in the bottom half, he fumbled a grounder from Lance Berkman, taking just long enough to recover to allow Berkman to reach first base safely. At that point, it was looking like it would be a pretty bad inning for Ian Kinsler.
But, ho, it would not! For after Berkman, Matt Holliday would follow.
That's how you make up for an error. And, of course, Elvis Andrus was pretty nifty, too. Now we go to the
top of the bottom of the fifth? Jesus you guys, slow down! Still scoreless.
In the fourth inning of Game 2, Adrian Beltre was up against Jaime Garcia, who had just allowed his first hit. There were two outs and runners on first and third in a scoreless game. It was an important at-bat. I'm not sure how it turned out because I was distracted by Beltre trying to murder Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler was just fine, brushing his shoulder off like nothing had happened.
It was more Zack Greinke than Jay-Z, but the effort was appreciated. There was no known reason for Beltre to want Kinsler dead, either.
But Kinsler is a resilient guy if the past is any guide:
And now I have to go back and figure out what happened in the game because I've been going through Ian Kinsler image repository theater. He's fine everybody! Remain calm! He's staying in the game!
(Not only is he staying in the game, but he made a couple of boffo plays at second in the bottom of the fourth.)
In Thursday's Game 2, Jaime Garcia worked through the first three innings with very little trouble. He nearly allowed a solo home run to Nelson Cruz, but he did not allow a solo home run to Nelson Cruz, and not a single ball was hit to a single outfielder. The Rangers went nine up, and nine down.
But Garcia being strong at the start is nothing new. Historically, he's been excellent the first time through the order, and less excellent subsequent times. And starting off Garcia's second trip through the Rangers' order in the top of the fourth was Ian Kinsler, who drew a leadoff walk. Kinsler was therefore the first Ranger to reach base.
He stayed put at first base for some time. Elvis Andrus lifted a fly out to shallow right, and then Josh Hamilton lifted a fly out to left-center. At that point it was up to Michael Young to keep the inning alive.
But in the second inning, Beltre struck out swinging, and in the fourth inning, Beltre struck out swinging. Garcia got him to fish at a 3-2 pitch just down and in, and the jam was escaped, the scoreless tie preserved.
Garcia's up to 56 pitches, with 32 strikes. He looked worse in the fourth than he did earlier on, but I guess that's just what we should expect, and Tony La Russa won't hesitate to take him out if he ends up in trouble.
Well, they haven't gotten out of the fourth inning in this game yet, either. But the early signs are positive, as Jaime García is working on a perfect game and Colby Lewis has given up just one hit through three frames.
Did I just jinx them? Very well then, I just jinxed them.
I'm pretty sure Jaime García and Colby Lewis don't worry much about what somebody posts on the Internet, any more than they worry about a few subpar starts in a row; if they let stuff like that get them down, they wouldn't be good enough to start every five days for World Series teams.
Anyway, with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Rafael Furcal finally broke up the double no-hitter ...
but Lewis got out of the mini-jam when Allen Craig hit an easy grounder to first base. Heading into the fourth, it's still Cardinals 0, Rangers 0.
When Jaime Garcia is right, he's one of the tougher pitchers to hit in the league. Well, I guess you can write that about every pitcher, but it seems like there's a clearer definition between Jekyll Garcia and Hyde Garcia than the good/bad versions of other pitchers. No stats to back that up -- just an anecdote.
There are some stats of interest for Garcia, though. For one, he's much, much, much better in the beginning of games than he is in the middle:
So when he's looking great the first time through the lineup, which he is right now, it's probably not a good idea to get too excited.
(But danged if he isn't looking great. Check this out.)
Jaime Garcia was outstanding in the top of the first, inducing a trio of ground outs. It's remarkably easy to be an effective pitcher if you don't let your opponent hit any balls to the outfield. He was outstanding to start the top of the second, too. He struck out Michael Young swinging on five pitches, and then he followed that by striking out Adrian Beltre on three in a row. The 0-2 curve:
Up came Nelson Cruz with two down and nobody on, and Cruz would end up breaking his bat and popping out. Before he did that, though, he swung at a 2-1 inside fastball. He turned on said 2-1 inside fastball, and ripped it on a line deep to left. It curled foul, but not by much, meaning Cruz came that close to just another home run.
But, nothing. Six up, six down for the Rangers.
As for the Cardinals? Seven up, six down. The Cards picked up the game's first baserunner in the bottom of the second when Matt Holliday drew a one-out walk, but he died at first base, so off to the third we go in a scoreless game.
It's Game 2 of the World Series. Mark McGwire is one of the coaches on a team in the World Series. To this point, I have not read an overwrought column about what this means. This means one of two things:
So I'm not looking into it any further. Either answer is bad, so I'll just resume not caring about the Cardinals' hitting coach, Mark McGwire (who seems to be doing a heckuva job, by the way.)
Just a few notes about Game 2 starter Jaime García:
Anyway, so far so good. After an easy 1-2-3 first inning for García, it's Cardinals 0, Rangers 0 in the bottom of the first inning.
From Beyond the Boxscore:
Believe it or not, the difference between an optimized lineup and a typical, mildly foolish one you'll see MLB teams use is only about one win over 162 games.
Just about every statistically savvy person would agree. But every time a lineup is released, the tweetnut gallery can't resist poking holes in it. Nick Punto hitting cleanup, for example, would cause the internet to completely fail. It would take six weeks for Twitter to recover.
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said his strained groin is bothering him enough that if this were the regular season, he'd probably be on the disabled list.
Yet he's hitting third. Every game, Josh Hamilton is hitting third, even though he probably wouldn't be playing at all under different circumstances. Dave Cameron makes an impassioned plea to hit Hamilton sixth, complete with .gifs that show him hitting mostly with his upper body. (Hamilton, not Cameron.)
It's a good idea to take any advantage you can get in the World Series, and an extra at-bat for Mike Napoli at Hamilton's expense is probably a good idea. But how meaningful is it? Unless Hamilton's groin is going to turn him into the equivalent of a .230/.280/.280 hitter -- which, hey, it could do -- there probably isn't a reason to second-guess Ron Washington for keeping him right where he is. There are always so many better reasons to second-guess Washington, people.
Over at BBTiA, Joey Matschulat's got an interesting look at plate umpire Greg Gibson, relative to the average plate umpire. I won't insert the graphics here; you should take a look. But here's the executive summary...
Like most umpires, Gibson is better with pitches up in the zone with pitches down in the zone; this happens naturally, as the higher pitches are simply easier for the umpire to judge. However, Gibson also seems to be particularly weak on pitches that are high and inside -- but still within the strike zone -- and especially to left-handed batters.
What might explain this? Perhaps Gibson flinches, because those pitches are traveling straight toward his face. Perhaps he's subconsciously hoping to discourage pitchers from coming up and inside to hitters. Or perhaps we've got a sample-size problem; these numbers are based on just the second half and the postseason, and perhaps a bit of regression is in order.
Watch tonight, though, and see if these trends continue.
In Wednesday night's World Series Game 1, the Texas Rangers mustered all of two runs and eight baserunners. That was against the right-handed Chris Carpenter, and the Cardinals' bullpen. What has Ron Washington drawn up for Thursday night's Game 2, against the left-handed Jaime Garcia? Read the text just below this text to find out!
This is the Rangers' preferred lineup against lefties, so there aren't any surprises. Craig Gentry draws the start in center, which sounds kind of weird, but Gentry runs like the devil and got on base 35 percent of the time over a limited sample during the year, so he makes a lot more sense than the left-handed David Murphy or the left-handed Endy Chavez.
If I had the power to change one thing, it would be Josh Hamilton's slot. Hamilton shouldn't be benched outright. With that said, he's playing hurt, and his groin injury appears to be having a negative effect on his production. I would like to drop him in the lineup - especially against a lefty like Garcia.
But it isn't that big of a deal, because lineup arrangement isn't that big of a deal, so, okay. Even with Hamilton well below 100 percent, the Rangers can hit, and this is a dangerous lineup one through...eight. Not nine. Definitely not nine.
Texas entered the #worldseries having played 40 consecutive games (including the regular season) without losing 2 straight games. #rangers
That’s an outstanding streak. It began after they were swept by, of all teams, the Red Sox from Aug. 23-25. They led the AL West by two games after that series; from then till the end of the regular season they went 22-8 and finished the season with a 14-2 run which included winning their final six games.
In the postseason they are 7-4, including Wednesday night’s Game 1 defeat, but still have not lost consecutive games.
The Cardinals had a similar season-ending push, going 23-9, but they did lose consecutive games twice in that span; the last such time was Sept. 22-23. St. Louis’ own streak of not losing back-to-back games is now 17.
40 games without losing two straight is mighty impressive, though. The Rangers really need to extend that streak or they’ll have a much tougher task ahead.
The lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 is more of the same, just with a slightly different permutation.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers take the field in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday. The Cardinals hold a 1-0 series lead.
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